Nutrition is a vital part of any runner’s training program. It’s also a big part of your overall health.
No matter how long you run, or how fast or slow you run, you should pay attention to what you are eating. Because you’re not just eating, you are fueling your body!
This page will cover nutrition basics, what to eat before running, how to stay hydrated while running, and what to eat after running so that you recover properly for your next workout.
Some basics are to eat a balanced diet rich in fruit and vegetables. Limit sweets such as cookies and candy.
I also suggest eating as naturally as possibly. This means steel cut oats rather than instant oatmeal or boxed cereals. An apple rather than apple juice. Beans or legumes rather than a fiber bar.
Eating Before Running
Always eat breakfast. My pre-run meal is usually 3-4 hours before my run.
You can run on an empty stomach, but you should only exercise for a maximum of 45 minutes. Drinking coffee or tea beforehand will stimulate your body to burn fat during the run, which is good for dieters. This form of training is commonly known as “bonk training” since you’re on the verge of bonking if you do this!
What to eat? Focus on complex carbs, preferably low on the Glycemic Index (GI.) Oatmeal would work. As would an apple. Granola and yogurt can work for some people.
Just make sure it’s not something that is going to upset your stomach.
Eating While Running
For longer runs, you may need to eat during the run. This is when you should eat high GI carbs like simple sugars. You want food that is very easy to digest. Fat and fiber are the enemy!
Sports drinks and energy gels are the most convenient options. Raisins and other dried fruit, honey on white bread, pretzels, gummy bears, etc. can also work.
If you’ll be running for a few hours, try to take in 150-250 calories per hour. (The exact amount will be determined by your stomach!)
Eating After a Run
Eat right after your run. It doesn’t have to be much, but eating a bagel or something within 15 minutes of your run will do wonders to refuel your muscles for your next workout.
Try to refuel with mainly carbs, but also some protein. You can take in high GI carbs – bread, bagels, etc. – now if you prefer.
Low Carb Diets?
Important note: Low-carb diets are not for hard-core athletes! Be sure to consume adequate carbohydrates or your performance will suffer. You’ll want to consume about 50-60% of your total daily calories from carbs. We’re talking good carbs like whole wheat bread or brown rice; not pure sugar from soft drinks.
You can still follow popular diets such as the Paleo Diet when running, but you will need to focus more on the carbohydrates (fruits, veggies, etc.) than the meat.
Staying hydrated is important. For short runs, water is sufficient. For longer runs, consider sports drinks or a type of electrolyte beverage.
Drink enough to quench your thirst.
Nutrition is a complex subject, so I’ll have to let you search the net for some more info, since I can’t cover it all here. Although I may expand this in the future. Keep checking back!
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